What are wall plates you ask? They are the plastic covers over your power outlets or light switches. Wall plates are the decorative (or plain, depending on the style you choose) piece that hides the cutout in the wall. Behind them is where all the wires connect to the plug or switch.
You may ponder now why they need to be replaced. If they hide all that mess (holes in the walls and wires) shouldn’t we let them stay there, hiding away what we really don’t need to see?
Well, they should, that is stay in their place, as long as they are not a cause of danger. But once wall plates have done their part and are ready to be replaced – we shouldn’t ignore them! How do we know they need to be replaced? Here are a few things to look for:
Cracked Wall Plates
A cracked wall plate is a fire hazard. Remember, there is electricity behind that piece of plastic. If a wall plate is cracked or has gaps, it may turn into a dust/hair/lint trap, which in time may become a fire hazard. Under some conditions these cracks may lead to explosion. Other concern is if the dust clogs up the outlet. Unlike a shower drain clog that may cause a flood, this type of clog may cause a fire.
To stay on the safe side of things, and avoid the house burning down, replace cracked or undersized wall plates. Start with checking the outlets by your hotter appliances, since they are more likely to cause fire. If you have a home theater or gaming equipment, assure the different devices are away from each other enough to allow them to cool/avoid overheating.
While this one is rare (I want to believe that it is), if you find that your wall plates have been painted over, it would be smart to replace them.
If you find a burnt wall plate it obviously needs to be replaced. But before you do that, check what caused it to burn. Behind that burnt cover there may be a hot wire that is not grounded. What does this mean? The outlet may need to be rewired or replaced all together.
Technology and Your Wall Outlets
You probably don’t give much thought to your wall outlets (for a good reason – why would you?) other than to plug something to them. And for that reason (and maybe a few others) they may be as old as your house.
Well, while they might still work, even be in good condition, but there are many new options out there now days. Options that are designed especially for all of those hand held gadgets we cannot live without anymore (smartphones, tablets, etc.). They include plates with USB built into them, phone jacks, fiber, multi-port connectors, dimmer controls and more.
While these are not a must, and they don’t prevent any real danger, wall outlets designed for today’s technological advancements make it easier to plug and go.